The leaks by a former US CIA operative, Edward Snowden, regarding US espionage and surveillance activities reveals much about the inner workings of the US government. Whilst espionage is usually consigned to the domain of Hollywood movies, these leaks reveal the true extent of the US and UK governments eves dropping operations, usually clouded in secrecy. Having exposed the espionage activities of the US government Edward Snowden, the man behind the leaks, remains a hunted man having fled the US. Much like the Wikileaks documents some of the information contained in the NSA leaks merely confirms what we already suspected, whilst others paint a shocking picture of paranoid states spying on their own citizens. Amongst the revelations, the following are a selection:
1. On the 6th June 2013, the Guardian and the Washington Post revealed PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program that allegedly allows the NSA to access e-mail, web searches, and other Internet traffic in real-time. PRISM is spying on an industrial scale. It involves collecting millions of emails and the personal content from social media. Tech companies have denied their involvement in creating a “back door access” to their systems.
2. On June 12 Snowden in his first interview since revealing his identity, told the South China Morning Post that the NSA had been hacking into computers in China and Hong Kong since 2009.
3. On June 21, the Guardian exclusively revealed that GCHQ, the British intelligence gained access to the network of cables that carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic transmitting huge amounts of sensitive personal information which it shared with the NSA.
4. On June 23, the Sunday Morning Post posted claimed from Snowden that the US hacked Chinese mobile-phone companies to collect millions of text messages and has also hacked Tsinghua University in Beijing as well as the Asian fibre-optic network operator Pacnet. The newspaper said Snowden provided documents that listed details of specific attacks during a four-year period.
Whilst these revelations have caused international embarrassment for the US and UK governments, they highlight disturbing hypocrisies and double standards;
Firstly, the US has always accused China of cyber espionage. Only a few days before the leaks, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel accused Beijing of cyber intrusions. Speaking at a security conference in Singapore on Saturday 1st June, Hagel said “The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military.” The Snowden leaks reveal very clearly that the US is guilty of the same claims it makes of China.
Secondly, the leaks uncover UK complicity in sharing their citizen’s data with their partners in crime the US. Indeed both nations share the fallacious pre-text for their global war on terror and thus have cooperated in targeting innocent people and profiling them as potential suspects. It has now come to the surface the Britain’s domestic security services attempted to cover up police complicity in bringing the killer of Stephen Lawrence to trial.
Thirdly, these revelations clearly show the privacy of individuals is a sham. This means no one is safe from being reprimanded before any trial or evidence in a judicial process. In Snowden’s words “You don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to have eventually fall under suspicion … and then they can use this system to go back in time and … derive suspicion from an innocent life.”
The NSA leaks highlight the extent to which to the US and the UK governments go to in order to gather intelligence which is then used by the politicians to further strengthen their attempts in yielding public opinion for their policies. This is just another example of ‘do as I say and not as I do’.
Whilst the US bullies its way around the globe acting as the policeman of the world it has to spy on its own people to keep them in check. The Muslim world is continually told to adopt ideas such democracy and ‘the rule of law’, yet at home in the West ordinary people are collectively suspected and spied upon.